Interviewing Your Relatives for Genealogical Purposes

Let’s start with the Basics

First, you will want to establish a relationship with you relative and get comfortable. If you do not have a relationship you must establish a relationship. Aunt Bell or Uncle John may not feel that comfortable and so it is important. You will always get clues.

I then start the tape recorder or video. I then state my name, the date, and the location. I may also record some additional facts, such as an occasion, and who else is in the house, in case they show up on the tape, etc.

I then start with very simple questions about themselves that are easy to answer. Names, locations, and dates are crucial to have in genealogy, so they are the first things I ask. But it is helpful to mix short answer questions with essay type questions.

  • What is your name? Who came up with the name? What does it mean?
  • Where and when were you born? Were you born in a hospital?
  • Where and when were you married?
  • What are your parents’ names? Where and when were they born?
  • Where do you live? Have you ever lived anywhere else?
  • What are your children’s’ birth dates and where were they born? What are their names?

From here, I generally branch out in one of three ways. I focus on the individual, broaden to the family, or ask about their place in history. I find it difficult to do more than one of these in a single interview. You may consider conducting more than one genealogy interview with the same person or group of people.

CAAGRI has and an excellent list of interview questions, follow the link below.

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